For years now one of the hot topics has been work and family balance; but, is there a different approach compared to what you’re constantly taught to do?
You’re being told to make your best effort to achieve the perfect balance between your career and your family. Spoiler alert, this is something we also agree with.
But, most clients in a psychotherapist’s office can’t really achieve such harmony given how short days and weeks seem to be. Instead of becoming less stressed, they end up even more anxious than before trying to balance things out.
So, maybe a paradox intervention is in order here?
Work and family balance – the classic tale of two poles
Let’s talk about the traditional approach to this issue first to understand where the problem lies.
For anyone who has both a career, no matter how big or small, and a family, finding a way to be good on both playing fields is a challenge. Modern era demands people to spend at least a third of their time (and a half or their wake time) working.
This is sometimes irreconcilable with being there for your family. Don’t get us wrong, people have to work, and a lot of why they work relates to afford a good life for their families. However, there is much, much more to human relationships than money.
Which is where the problem arises.
Family is supposed to be built around emotional relationship between its members, affection, support, and involvement.
In the pursuit of money and personal achievements, some people tend to disregard this fact.
Or, in a sense, schedule their exchange of affection for weekends. It is because their work and career drain them to the point of being plainly exhausted, too wearied to exchange love and show interest in their family members.
How work and family balance is usually approached
The internet is filled with many, often very useful ideas on how to achieve the desired work and family balance.
As we will see in a moment, the problem arises when taking all the prescribed steps still doesn’t result in what you might have imagined at the beginning – a harmonious life in which you miraculously have time for it all. You’re the perfect parent, the ideal spouse while also at the top of your game at work.
Some of the valuable advice out there is to set clear boundaries on when you’re available for work-related communication.
One study revealed that around half of employed adults checks their work emails when off work, sick, on holidays, on weekends. According to the kind of advice we’re talking about, this is precisely the thing you should be avoiding.
The different way to approach things
Yes, advice you can get tells you not to check your work email while with family, or to avoid work inertia, or never to take your work or work-related anxieties home.
But, we all do all those things regardless of the sensible advice we’re given online or by psychotherapists. Which speaks of the need to take a different approach to things, because this one isn’t working so well.
This is when you can take one of the two roads. Continue the traditional way and dissect the problem.
Look for the causes, both big and small, of the ever-fleeting work-life balance.
Then address these issues proactively. Seek professional help, advocate for a change in your company, and search for ways to always be there for your family. In all honesty, this is a sure road to burnout.
You’re adding one more time and energy-consuming task to your list. Working for the balance becomes yet another obligation and a stressor by itself.
The new way in practice
Instead, try this – a simple, effective, and rather unexpected solution. Instead of seeking balance – don’t.
Don’t just halt all your attempts for harmony. Do the opposite (imagine it, most vividly that your imagination allows you to). In other words – if your career suffered because you were too involved with your family, stop trying to jump start it.
Imagine yourself being the most avid housewife or stay-at-home dad there is. Picture it to the point of being sick of how tacky it looks.
Or, sit down and imagine yourself being all about work. Your career is perfect, but you don’t think twice about your children and spouse. Imagine this very strongly. The trick is in our minds’ natural tendency to always end up finding our own individual balance if we allow them to.
So, when you push for a balance you might not achieve it. When you relieve yourself from the pressure of getting it, your mind will arrange it’s priorities and find a way to get you where you need to be.